Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum

Take a step back in time to the days when there were no antibiotics to fight often lethal infections and then follow in the footsteps of Alexander Fleming on his road to the discovery of penicillin that was to revolutionise medicine and earned him a Nobel Prize.

See for yourself the small laboratory at St Mary's Hospital in which Fleming discovered penicillin, now restored to its cramped and crowded condition in September 1928 when a petri dish of bacteria became contaminated with a mysterious mould. Experience the thrill of the story of the discovery of penicillin in the place where it actually took place. Then retrace through a film and displays the thrilling story of a great scientist who was more than a one hit wonder and his life-saving discovery.

Come to the Museum to find out why the discovery of penicillin was perhaps one of the most significant events of the twentieth century and why it continues to play a vital role in the ever continuing battle of man and microbe.


Look out for…

  • The laboratory in which penicillin was discovered and the equipment Fleming used
  • One of the ceramic culture vessels — used at the William Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford where penicillin was developed in the early 1940s by Howard Florey and his team of scientists including the biochemist Ernst Chain. It is based on the design of a bedpan
  • Fleming’s mould medallions — given to such diverse people as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the Duke of Edinburgh, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Marlene Dietrich
  • A 1922 cartoon showing children queuing to be thrashed to produce a tear antiseptic relating to Fleming’s discovery of the enzyme lysozyme
  • The very first microscope Fleming owned as a medical student

Did you know?…

  • Alexander Fleming was born on a hill farm in Darvel, Ayrshire, but lived in London from the age of 14, entered St Mary’s as a medical school in 1901 and was still working there when he died in 1955
  • Fleming’s head of department and mentor Sir Almroth Wright was known as ‘Sir Almost Right’ and ‘Sir Always Wrong’ when he tried to revolutionise medicine with his vaccine therapy.
  • The 1945 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to Alexander Fleming for the discovery of penicillin and to Howard Florey and Ernst Chain for its development.
  • Fleming was honoured by the Kiowa tribe with the title Chief Doy-Gei-Taun ‘ (‘Maker of Great Medicine’)
  • Penicillin was honoured as the most important medical advance of the twentieth century by the Republic of San Marino
  • The Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum has been designated as an Historical Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry

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All information is drawn from or provided by the museums themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.